Friday, June 4, 2010

Why go to reunions? To see how far you've come

I was back in my hometown last month for my high school reunion. Not just any nostalgia-fueled reunion weekend, mind you -- my 20th.

A lot of people don't go to their high school reunions. I went to my 10th, and was on the fence about this one. I had my excuses: I didn't feel like I could take the time off from the office (or get enough work done in advance to cover myself while I was gone), I spend plenty of time socializing on Facebook, so I was already in touch with the people I cared about most... why make the trip?

In the end I was glad I went. But the fact is, there's nothing like a milestone reunion to make you feel both 17 and, well, old at the same time.

Now, I know I'm not actually that old. Even if my youngest kids, while playing "I spy," will offer up "Mama's hair!" as the response to "I spy, with my little eye, something gray." But when you're clinking glasses with people who weren't even in kindergarten the year you graduated from high school, you can't help but feel it. Also: Watching your children play in the same playground where you made a friend eat sand when you were 7 (I told him it was sugar. He believed me -- and forgave me some 20 years later). Also: When you get carded at the local brew pub and you feel an urge to bless the bouncer for thinking there's any way at all that you could possibly be closer to 21 than 40.

But the sense of being 17 again was powerful, too. Dishing with former classmates like we were still passing notes in history class. Sipping wine on the back lawn of the school and feeling like I was getting away with something. Being unable to call former teachers by their first names, even after being asked to. Getting handed a picnic lunch by the same wonderful lunch ladies who handed me my milk and mystery surprise nearly daily decades ago.

What was even more powerful, though, was the fact that while so much has changed, the changes were mainly superficial. We were all much the same -- familiar. I don't think anyone was surprised that the class geniuses became doctors, that the former athletes were still fit and coaching teams on the side, or that the editor in chief of the school newspaper became a journalist (ahem). At one point during the main event, I looked up and noticed that the old cliques had somehow reformed around the dinner tables, but it was kind of comforting to see. We each still had our places and our posses, even 20 years later. There wasn't really an urge to impress, just to reconnect -- and everyone was welcome.

PDSers who couldn't make it, please take note: We missed you. Mark's tree is healthy and huge. We donated the surplus money to the Alumni Fund, in honor of him and in honor of Michele, who passed away a few years ago. We're already thinking that maybe our 30th doesn't sound so bad.

I'm glad I went. I didn't tell anyone that I had invented Post-Its. Or that I was a professional killer. (While lining up the name tags, though, I did have a brief urge to chirp "Welcome back, Pointer! It's Arlene Oslott-Joseph! And who might you be?") My youngest kids had a blast wrecking my parents' house with their cousins, and my husband and I got to spend time together without worrying about rushing home to a babysitter. Instead of longing for the good old days, I came back to my real life with a clear view of how I got here. And that was well worth the trip.

Did you -- or will you -- go to your big high school reunion?


Paul Van der Grift said...

You have cause me to re-think my reunion.
Next year is my 35th and I have never been.

LMAlphonse said...

You should go! It was very interesting to see how so many of us found our paths in life without knowing it at the time. Also: If it's awful, you can always leave (or tell horror stories about it over drinks)...

Barb said...

While you are still remembering your happy reunion, I'll be making reservations to attend my 50Th in Oct., which has been in planning mode for the past two years. They have done a remarkable job by keeping a database from previous reunions.

During the past two years, there have been smaller reunions in different parts of the United States, for those who will not be able to attend the "Big One".

I'm anticipating large tote bags full of baby pictures and European tours, along with prescription drugs bottles. I'm hoping that I won't be the only one walking around with a wine glass in my hands!

This is going to be a very large turnout, because this will be the last one for the "Class of 60" and I'm going to enjoy all of the three days of catching up on lives.